In the 21st century, it sometimes feels as if our cars are computers on wheels. Automakers now routinely install rearview cameras, blind-spot warning systems, infotainment gear and other advanced technology in today’s vehicles.
Such driver-friendly gadgets “have moved down the ladder from luxury to more basic vehicles,” according to a 2015 study published in the International Journal of Transportation Science and Technology.
At the same time, the technology that auto repair shops use to conduct day-to-day business also is evolving. And just as auto repair shops need to stay on the cutting edge to work on today’s tech-loaded vehicles, they also should have the latest technology to ensure their operations are running as smoothly as a finely tuned engine.
According to Bolt On Technology, a technology provider for auto repair shops, installing the right tech tools at a repair shop can:
- Increase the efficiency of day-to-day activities
- Lift the productivity of employees
- Shore up the shop’s professionalism
- Improve the accuracy of information about vehicles
- Strengthen communication with customers
Here’s a look at some of the technology that auto repair shops need to travel at the speed of business.
Shop Management Systems
Shop management systems are critical to running an auto repair shop in today’s business environment. Among other things, these management systems can:
- Track data and finances to help boost the bottom line
- Handle point-of-sale functions
- Monitor purchases and inventory
- Deal with accounting and payroll tasks
- Organize customer relations
- Schedule appointments
- Manage personnel
In other words, a shop management system like Talus Pay POS can serve as a one-stop shop for a few everyday business activities.
“If a shop is not using software to help manage and integrate these responsibilities, it is working WAY too hard,” according to Audatex, a provider of technology for the collision and insurance industries.
A 2014 survey of repair professionals by Audatex found that mobile was perceived as the most disruptive technology in their industry (32%), followed by social media (30%) and data analytics (30%).
Audatex didn’t do a follow-up survey, but it’s safe to say that mobile, social media and data analytics probably would be viewed as disruptive technologies today.
Elsewhere in the survey, repair professionals ranked the six most important technology capabilities in their businesses:
1. Accuracy of estimates (35%)
2. Real-time customer communications (24%)
3. Employee productivity (22%)
4. Business analytics (12%)
5. Advanced vehicle identification technology (6%)
6. Parts efficiency (4%)
Again, Audatex has not repeated this type of survey, but it’s likely that the list would appear much the same today.
Tablets, laptops and smartphones speed up communication – both on the shop floor and between shop staff and customers. These technologies are rapidly becoming “must-haves” for the modern auto repair shop.
Shop workers who use these tools also can quickly search for information about parts, vehicle models and so forth. This results in better-informed, quicker decisions about repairs.
These tools also help technicians complete repair orders digitally, enabling them to provide faster estimates for parts and labor.
Audatex cites device-enabled digital inspections as one of the benefits of portable technology. Digital inspection software relies on pictures and videos to help inform customers about repairs, such as what needs to be fixed, which parts will be required and how far along the repair job is.
Among other things, digital inspection software can eliminate time-consuming paperwork, monitor billed hours, and provide real-time repair updates to employees and motorists.
Incorporating a suite of tablets, laptops and smartphones into the operations of an auto repair shop is a smart move that customers are bound to appreciate.
It sounds obvious, but every auto repair shop should have a website where car owners can learn about service offerings and schedule appointments. Making it easier for customers to interact with your business frees up a shop’s employees to deliver better one-on-one, in-person customer service. That level of service can, in turn, generate repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals.
If your shop does have a website, how robust is it? In the 2018 National Independent Auto Repair Shop Marketing Survey, 94% of shop owners said they employed some form of online search marketing, even if it was just a one-page website.
Today’s internet-savvy consumers might be less than impressed with a single-page website, though.
A 2016 survey by Vistaprint found that having a poorly designed website is worse than having no website at all. Nearly half of the consumers surveyed said they’d be unlikely to buy products or services from a small business that had a poorly designed website.
So, do you remain unconvinced about the power of a strong website?
In the 2018 National Independent Auto Repair Shop Marketing Survey, 48% of shop owners ranked online search (including websites, reviews and marketing) as delivering the best return on investment in terms of attracting new customers.
Additionally, 60% of shop owners said they were pleased with the ROI of their online search investment. And online search was the marketing category with the heaviest amount of spending.
Setting up a new website — or improving an existing site — is crucial to your success. SCORE, a mentoring organization for small businesses, says “the internet is just as important as word-of-mouth in building your business — and that trend is only going to increase.”
Are you an auto repair shop looking for information about your industry? Check out our auto benchmark report to gain valuable insight from other shop owners on how they grew their business!